Fruits and vegetables are less nutritious than they used to be

Mounting evidence shows that many of today’s whole foods aren't as packed with vitamins and nutrients as they were 70 years ago, potentially putting people's health at risk.

Vegetables like this freshly picked carrot lying on a garden bed of frisée endive are critical sources of nutrients. Mounting evidence shows that many fruits, vegetables, and grains grown today carry fewer nutrients than those grown decades ago. This trend means that “what our grandparents ate was healthier than what we’re eating today,” says Kristie Ebi, an expert in climate change and health at the University of Washington in Seattle. But studies have shown that changing farming methods can reverse these nutrient declines. Produce cultivated on farms that embrace regenerative farming practices is more nutritious.

As you gaze across the rows of brightly colored fruits and vegetables in the produce section of the grocery store, you may not be aware that the quantity of nutrients in these crops has been declining over the past 70 years.

Mounting evidence from multiple scientific studies shows that many fruits, vegetables, and grains grown today carry less protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin, and vitamin C than those that were grown decades ago. This is an especially salient issue if more people switch to primarily plant-based diets, as experts are increasingly recommending for public health and for protecting the planet.

Nutrient decline “is going to leave our bodies with fewer of the components they need to mount defenses against chronic diseases—it’s going to undercut the value of food as preventive medicine,” says David R. Montgomery, a professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington in Seattle and co-author with Anne Biklé of What Your Food Ate.

Read This Next

See 100 years of the Lincoln Memorial in photos
Next-gen weather station installed near Everest’s summit
Hard hit by COVID-19, Black Americans are recovering slowly

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet